Since the 2000s, China’s media industrialization and cultural globalization have encouraged a burgeoning “queer pop”——that is, a soaring proliferation of non-normatively gendered and/or sexualized narratives and performances, cultural productions and inventions, artistic expressions and gestures, and social relations and kinship systems in China’s media, cultural, and creative industries and spaces. In the meantime, digital production and cyber distribution technologies, social networking sites (both online and offline), and cellular phone applications available to self-identified LGBTQ groups have become increasingly accessible and diversified. In the parallel off-screen public space, China has also witnessed several waves of LGBTQ and feminist sociopolitical movements, following the decriminalization and depathologization of homosexuality in 1997 and 2001 respectively. Some queer and feminist movements were significantly shaped by transnational queer and feminist currents, such as the most recent #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement at China-based universities.
At this seemingly liberating moment, questions particularly pertinent to ask are: Can queer pop in post-2000 China be considered “gaystreaming,” “queerbaiting,” “post-gay,” “post-queer,” “homonormativity,” or “fan service” with Chinese characteristics (Green 2002; Gross 2001; Ng 2013, 2017; Wood 2013)? In what ways has the convergence of transcultural LGBTQ and feminist politics, digital technologies, and entertainment media contributed to the flourishing of this Chinese pop cultural terrain? How and why can certain forms of queer entertainment survive in a society in which LGBTQ (as well as highly politicized feminist) identities and activisms remain largely censored, discriminated against, and demonized? Can queer aesthetics, performances, and narratives speak to and reflect on the intersectional struggles and alliances of gender, sexual, ethnic, and class-based minorities within contemporary China’s nationalistic discourses? If so, how? What are the connections and differences between media that represent cross-dressing, homosociality, and androgyny; pop cultural productions for, by, or about self-identified LGBTQ groups; and off-screen LGBTQ lives and realities in and outside of China?
This special issue of Feminist Media Studies explores these pressing questions by calling for a broadened understanding of “queer” as non-normative ways of seeing, being, negotiating, performing, and becoming. Queerness in this sense can be expressed in forms of aesthetics, as possibilities of imagining and desiring, and through practices of identifying/disidentifying. It can defy sociopolitical ideals or trespass on sociocultural registers in heteronormative, patriarchal societies. In this vein, queer pop in post-2000 China does not limit itself to LGBTQ-themed media and pop cultures. It also manifests in the mainstream media and cultural spaces and negotiates with imaginations about ethnicity, class, religion, and nation-state in and beyond China’s geopolitical boundaries.
This issue aims to interrogate the manners in which queer pop appropriates digital tools, media information, global capitals, and communicative platforms to negotiate with official media and political policies. It also explores the means by which queer pop cashes in on androgynous and transgender representations, same-sex intimacies, and non-heterosexually structured lifestyles and relationships. It thus brings to light how China’s queer pop carefully positions itself in relation to more politically sensitive and often severely censored LGBTQ media productions and social activism. In addition, the issue strives to unsettle the dichotomous logic too often employed in understanding a series of sociocultural categories and identifications, not only surrounding gender and sexuality, but also concerning ethnicity, class, and geopolitics. In particular, it is interested in contributions that deal with the queer agency, promises, and frustrations of ethnic and linguistic minority groups in a predominantly Mandarin-speaking, Han-Chinese-centric public space.
Potential topics may include but are not limited to:
- Indie films, TV shows, and music groups that appropriate gender and sexual non-normativities
- Queer pop phenomena facilitated by cyber communication and digital tools, such as cyber lesbian and gay stardom, transnational queer fandoms of local and foreign media, digital queer films, LGBTQ-themed media produced and distributed by online broadcasters, and online gaming, cosplay, and live streaming
- Case studies of queer pop that reconfigures China-centrism, Chineseness, and nationalism, or brings linguistic, religious, and ethnic minorities (within or beyond China’s geopolitical boundaries) into Chinese mainstream media and cultural spaces
- China’s political regulations and media censorship systems that catalyse, manifest in, or frustrate the emergence and development of queer pop
- Queer pop’s interplay with global feminism, transfeminism, global LGBTQ cultures, local feminist histories and post-feminist politics
- Non-identitarian forms of queer practices in Chinese media, cultural, and creative industries, such as cross-dressing performances, transgender celebrity personas, pink economy, and queer-friendly fashion and merchandise
Please submit a 350-word abstract as well as a short (2-page) CV to Jamie J. Zhao by 1st November 2018. Authors whose abstracts are selected will be notified by 15th December 2018 and asked to submit complete manuscripts by 15th May 2019. Acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee publication of the paper, which will be subject to peer review.
- Guest Editor: Jamie J Zhao, University of Warwick, UK (J.Zhao.firstname.lastname@example.org)